The Coal Trader

China’s Met Coal Imports Surge to Record Highs, Fueled by Mongolia and Russia

China’s insatiable appetite for metallurgical coal (met coal) reached new heights in December 2023, fueled by a remarkable 77.3% year-on-year increase and hitting a record monthly high of 11.46 million tonnes (mt). This surge highlights the country’s continued reliance on imported met coal despite increased domestic production.

Mongolia and Russia Top Suppliers:

  • Leading the charge were Mongolia and Russia, accounting for a combined 78.5% of China’s total met coal imports in 2023.
  • Mongolian deliveries skyrocketed 110.6% to 53.93 mt, culminating in an all-time high of 6.55 mt in December.
  • Russia also contributed significantly, with imports rising 23.7% to 26.07 mt in 2023, and December seeing a 26.1% increase to 2.43 mt.

Other Sources and Australian Thaw:

  • Canadian and US met coal shipments remained moderate, while Indonesia saw an impressive 83.9% increase in 2023.
  • Notably, Chinese buyers showed renewed interest in Australian met coal after the unofficial ban lifted, importing 2.80 mt in 2023 and 0.51 mt in December.

Domestic Production Holds Steady, Consumption Rises:

  • Despite heavy reliance on imports, China’s domestic washed met coal supply remained relatively stable at 451.95 mt in January-November 2023.
  • However, total consumption for met coke production jumped 6.3% to 508.63 mt during the same period.

Exports Slip Slightly:

  • China’s exports of coke and semi-coke showed a slight decline in 2023, falling 1.4% to 8.79 mt compared to the previous year.

Looking Ahead:

The significant increase in met coal imports suggests China’s dependence on foreign sources continues. While Mongolia and Russia remain dominant suppliers, the thawing of relations with Australia opens up another avenue for diversification. Increased domestic production and fluctuations in exports further add complexity to the picture. As China navigates its domestic steel industry and global trade dynamics, monitoring its met coal imports will remain crucial for understanding its energy landscape and its impact on the international market.